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So long and thanks for all the nuts...

Updated on November 25, 2011
One of these guys named Inyo?
One of these guys named Inyo?
Joseph Grinnell
Joseph Grinnell | Source

Where's Alvin?

A seemingly innocuous little story caught my attention this past week. Of course, I'm one of those annoying people who looks beyond the more obvious headlines that scream for my vapid attention while I reach for the Valium, and instead search for the more positive, meaningful stories more worthy of reading. This was one.

It seems there's a cute little bushy-tailed chipmunk known in the Eastern Sierra region of California as the Inyo Chipmunk that has evidently disappeared from that part of the State. So what, you say? After all, (a) how many different types of chipmunks can there be that this one is important, (b) the stories report there were sightings of other similar chipmunks in the White Mountains not far away, and (c) they keep making sequels to Alvin and the Chipmunks, so they're probably all out responding to a casting call!

But not likely.

"As near as we can tell, it's gone from the Sierra," said James Patton, a former UC Berkeley Professor of Zoology, who has been looking for them throughout the region for the past two years.

According to a recent articlein the Sacramento Bee, "While the Inyo chipmunk is the only one that has disappeared from the Sierra, other species of chipmunk are on the move. The alpine chipmunk, for example, was common in Tuolumne Meadows at 8,600 feet above sea level in Yosemite National Park a century ago. Today, it can be found only at higher, cooler elevations. Another species abundant in Yosemite in the early 1900s, the shadow chipmunk, is now exceedingly rare. All of which makes Patton believe chipmunks are the most sensitive barometers of climate change in the Sierra."

There's actually quite a bit of history behind this story. Patton, in studying the chipmunks and other species, followed a carefully annotated methodology pioneered by Joseph Grinnell, a Professor of Zoology in Berkeley who, utilizing what is now known as the Grinnell Method, conducted a series of observations of plants and animals in the Sierras, most specifically in 1910-11. Exactly 100 years ago.

So, unlike many other scientific studies, it provides scientists a pretty reliable base point from which they can measure ecosystem changes. Without getting too technical, because that is not my intent, modern scientists are able to see how certain species have adapted as a result of climate changes over the century elapsed since the Grinnell studies. The disappearance of the Inyo Chipmunk from the Eastern Sierras, they speculate, may be one of those changes.

So long, and thanks for all the fish!
So long, and thanks for all the fish!
Wait ... where you going, Flipper?
Wait ... where you going, Flipper?

Thanks for the fish!

Which brought me to thinking about missing dolphins. I know - that's a leap, right (... yes, the pun was intended ... haven't you read my stuff before?) Specifically, the dolphins from Douglas Adams' brilliantly irreverent Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "trilogy". Okay, stay with me for a moment, while I bring the neophytes up to speed.

It seems that an ordinary Englishman named Arthur Dent is accidentally picked up as a hitchhiker on a passing spaceship, right before the Earth is destroyed to make way for an interstellar bypass. It wasn't as though signs weren't posted on a nearby galaxy, so we were warned. So evidently, right before the Earth was destroyed, certain creatures became aware of this coming catastrophe before humans (who, the book reports, turn out to be the third most intelligent beings - the second being dolphins, and the most intelligent: mice. But that's another story.)

So, not long before this calamitious event, all the dolphins on the Earth took off, with one parting statement to all, which was ... you guessed it ... "so long, and thanks for all the fish!"

The mice? That's another story. Didn't I already tell you that? So stop asking!


Lotta nuts...

Adams' books are crazy fun, and I highly recommend them for fun and just plain wackiness. It is interesting, from that crazy vantage point, though, to see just how narcissistic and self-important we humans are. Even as I was researching this subject further, for this short little commentary about the disappearance of a species of chipmunk, I stumbled across writings of egotistical lunatics espousing ridiculous opinions about whether climate change is real or whether we're being snookered by some liberal agenda.

Silliness. And yet very scary.

Not unlike the idea of an interstellar bypass needing to be constructed right along a pathway blocked by our little blue planet.

Honestly, the point here is that there's a species that went from abundance in an area to vanishing. That's something we should pay attention to. And study further, using measured, quantitative, rational means. We can draw inferences later. And it probably wouldn't hurt to consult the dolphins.

For now, it appears we have a whole lotta nuts in need of a chipmunk. And a casting agent desperately in need of extras.


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    • Gerg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from California

      Thanks Genna!


    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      "For now, it appears we have a whole lotta nuts in need of a chipmunk. And a casting agent desperately in need of extras."

      Lol! I loved's delightful.

    • Satori_1957 profile image


      8 years ago from Sacramento

      I might do that Greg. Thanks for the encouragement. As I learn more and absorb more about what's going on with our food supply, I just might do that.

      Yes, 42. Unfortunately for some folks who know me...42 is the very first answer to most of the questions they ask me, esp. if they begin by saying, "Question!?!?!?!" 42 fits then :-)

      Have a fabulous weekend.


    • Gerg profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thanks Nellieanna - I love the way you describe that: refreshingly provocative! I'll be sharing that with friends now, you know! ;-)

      Smiles, G

    • Gerg profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thanks Deb - and I'd forgotten that was the answer to the mystery of the universe. You know, you should write an article about the food issue.

      Best, G

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 

      8 years ago from TEXAS

      Delightful! Your tongue-in-cheek with purpose-in-mind is refreshingly provocative. But I am merely a neophyte! heh heh

    • Satori_1957 profile image


      8 years ago from Sacramento

      You're so funny!

      On a truly thoughtful note, I believe that we should not only pay attention to vanishing species but also to vanishing food supplies. Without even realizing it, the varieties of foods we eat are diminishing. As companies merge and start controlling our food supply by telling farmers what they can grow in order to export and make money, we are losing choices we once had. There are now certain areas of the country where different types of corn and potatoes, for example, are being grown as heirloom varieties in the hopes that some day those crops will be plentiful again.

      We really need to start paying attention to not only vanishing species due to global warming, human consumption and/or greed, but also to where the food we eat comes from, how it's raised/treated, and how it's being controlled by powers who do not have our well-being in mind. Scares me and I'm fearless.

      Oh, and the answer's 42 :-P

      Cute little chipmunks. Personally, I'm a Theodore fan :-)

      As always Greg, very thought-provoking.

      Thanks, D


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